A very rare inscribed gilt-bronze archaic vessel and cover, Hu Western Han Dynasty  (2)

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Lot 4
A very rare inscribed gilt-bronze archaic vessel and cover, Hu
Western Han Dynasty

Sold for £ 75,000 (US$ 91,219) inc. premium
A very rare inscribed gilt-bronze archaic vessel and cover, Hu
Western Han Dynasty
Robustly cast, of elegant pear-shaped form supported on a splayed foot, the smooth body divided by three concentric raised ribs, the shoulders set with a pair of taotie mask handles suspending loose rings, the slightly domed cover with concentric circles and surmounted by three stylised phoenix, with some malachite encrustation, the foot incised with an inscription. 18.3cm (7 1/4in) high (2).

Footnotes

  • The Property of a Gentleman 士紳藏品

    西漢 銅鎏金獸面鋪首壺
    「八年詔□容三□一龠甄氏」銘文

    Provenance: The Lai Family Collection, Hong Kong, by repute
    Gisèle Croës Arts D'Extreme Orient, Brussels, 1994
    Jean-Yves Ollivier Collection

    Published and Illustrated: G.Croës, XVII Biennale des Antiquaries, Paris, 10-24 November 1994, pp.68-69

    來源:據傳香港黎氏家族舊藏
    布魯塞爾吉賽爾藝廊,1994年
    歐宗易先生珍藏

    出版及著錄:吉賽爾藝廊,《XVII Biennale des Antiquaries(第十七屆巴黎古董雙年展)》,1994年11月10日-24日,頁68-69

    There is an inscription incised onto the foot which reads:

    八年詔□容三□一侖甄氏

    which may be translated as:

    'By order of...in the eighth year, this vessel has a capacity of three [ge] and one yue in possession of the Zhen Family'

    According to Han dynasty units of measurements, two yue is equivalent to one ge (合), thus the unit after san (three) should be ge. Three ge and one yue of this vessel's volume capacity therefore approximates to roughly 70ml. When Emperor Qin Shihuang conquered the various warring states and unified them under his Qin dynasty, he also unified and formalised measurement units across his empire. This system continued through to the Han dynasty. Thus the missing part of the inscription on the present lot can be inferred to be the eighth year of the reign of an emperor.

    The present lot would have been used for storing alcohol. The whole body is gilt, making it particularly precious. The technique of gilding started in the Warring States period, and was developed in the Qin and Western Han periods. See a related gilt-bronze container, Western Han dynasty, illustrated and discussed by Wang Tao, Chinese Bronzes from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 2009, p.116, no.51.

    Related hu vases but with more elaborate decoration were also found in tombs with inscriptions that showed they belonged to the Zhen family (甄氏), a Princely family from the Han dynasty. See Mancheng Han mu fajue baogao, 1980, Beijing, pp.41 and 43.

    A related lacquer-painted bronze flask of very similar form, early Western Han dynasty, is illustrated in The Rise of the Celestial Empire: Consolidation and Cultural Exchange during the Han Dynasty, Hong Kong, 2015, p.110. Another similar gilt-bronze hu, but smaller (7cm), is in the British Museum (acc.no.1947,0712.337).

    隆蓋,上鑄翻轉S形卷雲狀三角。壺口直唇,束頸,溜肩兩側鑄獸面鋪首銜環,圓鼓腹略微下垂呈梨形,圈足略微外撇。壺身肩、胸、腹三圍飾扁平弦紋各一周。通身鎏金。此壺當為酒器,鎏金灼灼,彌足珍貴。鎏金工藝最遲起於戰國,興於秦漢,類似的西漢鎏金儲酒器可參考梅茵堂舊藏一例,見王濤著,《Chinese Bronzes from the Meiyintang Collection(玫茵堂藏中國銅器)》,倫敦,2009年,頁116,編號51。

    此件拍品圈足上依稀可辨數字銘文:「八年詔□容三□一龠甄氏」,其中「詔」、「容」之間和「三」、「一」之間有各有一字為鏽所掩不可識,然而漢制「龠」上一級的容積單位為「合」,一合等於兩龠,由此「三」、「一」之間當為「合」字,故此壺的容積為三合一龠,約合現代70毫升。「八年詔」表明此壺容積乃是根據某帝八年的詔令所製,合乎秦代以來中央政府對全國度量衡單位的統一制度。「甄氏」或為漢代漢代后戚,此二字銘文亦見於滿城漢墓所出銅器,見《滿城漢墓發掘報告》,北京,1980年,頁41及43。

    相關的他例可參考一件形制類似的西漢早期銅壺,惟壺身髹漆,見香港歷史博物館編,《漢武盛世:帝國的鞏固和對外交流》,香港,2015年,頁110;大英博物館藏有一件類似的鎏金銅壺亦資參考,館藏編號1947,0712.337。
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A very rare inscribed gilt-bronze archaic vessel and cover, Hu Western Han Dynasty  (2)
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